Alpacas belong to the camelid family and are herbivores, which means that they feed primarily on grass. To aid digestion of their food, they have a stomach divided into three parts. Their jaw is very similar to the camel's jaw. Like all camelids, alpacas are social animals, so they move in herds.
Classification and characteristics
Like all camels, the body of the alpacas is characterized by a long, thin neck, elongated, slender legs and a small head. But the difference is that they don't have humps. There are two types of alpacas, which differ in their fur. The Huacaya alpaca, the most famous alpaca, has a wavy fur. The Suri Alpaca, on the other hand, has straight hair and therefore looks thinner.
To help the mobility of the alpacas, the wool of the Huacaya alpaca is sheared once a year and that of the Suri alpaca every two years. Each alpaca produces between three and six kilograms of wool, but only about half is usable.
The mares are very light and weigh around 65 kg, whereas the stallions weigh out on average 15 kg more and reach 80 kg. Both have a life expectancy of nearly 25 years. Alpacas have different fur colours, these range from pure white, beige to brown and reddish-brown tones to shades of grey and deep black. Alpacas offer up to 23 natural colour shades.
Properties of alpaca wool
1.- Alpaca wool has a soft, silky, shiny natural fibre. Compared to sheep's wool, it is warmer and thinner.
2.- Alpaca wool a thermoregulatory. This means that in summer, it repels heat. And in winter, it maintains your body heat.
3.- Due to the hollow fibres, no bacteria or viruses can survive in the alpaca wool, so it is antibacterial.
4.- The alpaca wool has a dirt-repellent fibre.
5.- Because of its moisture-repellent properties, alpaca wool does not generate any bacteria. So no odours can arise.
6.-In addition, the alpaca wool is hypoallergenic, which means that this wool does not cause allergies.
Because female ovulation occurs during intercourse, alpacas can reproduce most of the year. The wearing time is approx. Eleven months. Typically, the female gives birth to a single foal, which she nurses for six to eight months. The complete development of the alpaca boy ends between the first and second year of life.
Alpacas are animals that are deeply rooted in the human history of the South American continent because, without them, human development would not have been possible or would have been much more difficult. This is because there were no domesticated animals such as cows, horses, pigs or others in South America. This is why the alpacas were perceived as man's best friends in South America. The domestication of alpacas began 6,000 or 7,000 years ago. They served as pack animals and warmed the locals with their wool. The various indigenous peoples raised large herds of alpacas. This changed with the conquest by the Spanish Empire, as they brought sheep and showed no interest in the native alpaca animals. The alpaca became the farm animal of the poor indigenous population and was almost extinct. This situation lasted until the independence of the South American countries when the value of the alpaca was recognized once again. Today, most of the alpacas are found in Chile, southern Peru and western Bolivia, and some specimens in northern Argentina.
Alpacas are also kept in Europe. Despite efforts to improve their quality of life on this continent, the alpacas have adapted to the South American highlands for millennia. For this reason, we only work with alpacas from South America.